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RELS330 Special Topic:Judaism in the Modern World (Advanced)

An introduction to Judaism in the modern world, with emphasis on contemporary issues and debates.

Although there are only 14 million Jews worldwide, Judaism is the precursor of both Christianity and Islam and has played a significant role in the cultures of Europe, the Middle East and the US. This paper focuses on modern Judaism, as it developed over the last two centuries, so as to understand the beliefs and practices of contemporary Jews.

We will consider questions such as: why are there disagreements between different Jewish sects or movements, including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaisms? What is the Ultra-Orthodox movement, and are they 'fundamentalists'? What do Jews mean when they claim to be the Chosen People? What are Jewish beliefs about a coming Messiah in the end times? How does Judaism treat women? What is Jewish mysticism - Hasidism and Kabbalah? Why has antisemitism arisen in Europe and in Christianity, and how did it result in persecutions and the Holocaust? How did Zionism - the movement to establish a modern state of Israel - arise, and what are the religious dimensions of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? Can we say that Israel is a secular state, as it sometimes claims? This paper provides an introduction to the academic study of a social group that challenges the boundaries of religion, politics and culture. No background in religion is required.

Paper title Special Topic:Judaism in the Modern World (Advanced)
Paper code RELS330
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Summer School, Summer School
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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18 200-level RELS or RELX points
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited together with RELS 230 when passed with the same content.
Dr Deane Galbraith,
Teaching staff
Lecturer: Dr Deane Galbraith
Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Will Sweetman
Paper Structure
  • Section 1: Judaism: History, Practices, Beliefs
  • Section 2: Modernity and Movements
  • Section 3: Contemporary Debates
  • Section 4: Antisemitism, Holocaust, Post-Holocaust Judaism
  • Section 5: Zionism, Israel and Palestine
Teaching Arrangements
Five hours of lectures per week for five weeks

All lectures will be recorded and made available to distance students.
A course reader has been developed for this paper and will be available in print and PDF form.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to
  1. Describe and distinguish various modern forms of Judaism and their origins, practices, beliefs and constructions of identity
  2. Understand various critical methods as applied to Judaic studies, their applicability to its subfields and their relative strengths and weaknesses
  3. Understand and evaluate opposing viewpoints on select issues and debates within modern Judaism
  4. Write clear, persuasive, critical and knowledgeable essays on contemporary topics and debates within Judaic studies
Students who successfully complete the paper at the 300-level should also be able to
  1. Articulate the strengths and weaknesses of positions within Judaic studies
  2. Relate developments in various contemporary forms of Judaism to the demands and challenges of modernity
  3. Assess the limitations and contingencies of the category of religion as it is employed within Judaic studies

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Summer School

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system

Summer School

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Monday 10:00-10:50 2-7
Tuesday 10:00-10:50 2-5, 7
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 2-7
Thursday 10:00-10:50 2-7